After a thrilling win in Calgary against one of the league’s best teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs head further west to Vancouver for the second game of their road swing against the 27-30-9 Canucks (9 p.m EST, SN Ontario).
There has been a lot of talk about the Leafs bottom line since the Lindholm trade. Trevor Moore seemingly has a good reputation already among the coaching staff and has seven points to his name in 12 NHL games this year, while Tyler Ennis potted three amid a positive night for his line on Monday after sitting out the prior game as a healthy scratch.
They’ll now add to that line’s skill level tonight as Nic Petan replaces Frederik Gauthier at center. The 23-year-old Gauthier has played 94 games in the NHL now over four different seasons, including 57 this year. I wouldn’t say we’re getting into last chance territory yet, but he has a solid body of work now at the professional level and hasn’t posted good enough results for the team not to explore other options. He’s never finished with a positive RelTM Corsi or expected goals offensively and has had mixed results defensively. This year, in fairness, he’s been solid in his own end and has allowed 2.3 fewer shot attempts per hour relative to his teammates; he can be a good complement to skilled players as someone who can win puck battles, stay above his man, and support down low in the defensive zone, but Petan’s skill level and scoring rates in the AHL have earned him a look in what has been Gauthier’s role for most of the year so far.
The only other change for the Leafs is Justin Holl drawing in once against for Igor Ozhiganov. Holl’s last game was the Leafs 6-1 loss in Tavares’ return to Long Island, and it’s good to see the organization is approaching this as a more active rotation than earlier in the season given the blue line’s need for more puck-moving ability with Travis Dermott and Jake Gardiner on the shelf.
The Canucks are 2-6-2 in their last ten and currently sit sixth in a Pacific Division that has five of the NHL’s poorest teams below its top three of Calgary, San Jose, and Vegas. 2018-19 will nevertheless be looked at as a relative success for Vancouver compared to some of the bleak years they’ve had recently. There’s still some pain to be had before they’ll have a team that could compete for a playoff spot (they rank between 22-25th in most major metrics this year), but the play of Pettersson, Boeser, and Horvat have given Canucks fans hope that there are better days ahead.
Tonight’s starting goaltender for the Canucks, Jacob Markstrom has been with the Canucks four years now, two years as their starter. He hovered around league average numbers until this year, when he’s taken a step up with the team more competitive on a regular basis. He ranks seventh among regular NHL goaltenders in goals saved above expected this year. It’ll be him vs. Andersen tonight, who’s so far continuing the best year of his career into the month of March. Andersen now ranks second in goals saved above expected and has won his last five consecutive starts.
Game Day Quotes
Mike Babcock on what the bottom line has done for the depth of the club:
Well, I just think it’s important, if you’re going to have any success long-term, to have good depth on your roster. The more competition you have from within by having good players, the more competitive you are on a nightly basis. I think it’s a real good thing. Moore has really given us an addition — he’s hard on the puck, he forechecks, he tracks back, he’s got real good details. The GOAT is a real good defender, and [Ennis] has got skill. When you add it together, the four of them have done a nice job.
Babcock on Elias Pettersson:
I know him well. We talked a tonne about him at the draft and I saw him in Michigan at the summer tournament, so I’ve seen him there and seen him since. Obviously, he’s an elite talent. What I like about him is his brain makes the rest go. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s faster with the puck that without it. He can shoot it off a pass like no one. He generates offense for the players around him and he creates space.
Babcock on Petan:
The biggest thing to me is he’s got skill. I think anytime your people acquire someone and put time into going through the process to figure out ‘can this guy help?’, then you try to give them the best chance. No different than these other guys… When he gets his chance, he’s got to do something with his chance. That’s the toughest part — you get the opportunity and you get comfortable, but are you able to execute? We’re just going to watch.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #34 Auston Matthews – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#11 Zach Hyman – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#12 Patrick Marleau – #29 William Nylander – #28 Connor Brown
#63 Tyler Ennis – #19 Nic Petan – #42 Trevor Moore
#44 Morgan Rielly – #2 Ron Hainsey
#8 Jake Muzzin – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#52 Martin Marincin – #3 Justin Holl
#31 Frederik Andersen
#40 Garret Sparks
Injured: Nazem Kadri (concussion), Jake Gardiner (back), Travis Dermott (shoulder)
Scratched: Frederik Gauthier, Igor Ozhiganov
Vancouver Canucks Projected Lines
#70 Tanner Pearson – #53 Bo Horvat – #77 Nikolay Goldobin
#17 Josh Leivo – #40 Elias Pettersson – #6 Brock Boeser
#26 Antoine Roussel – #88 Adam Gaudette– #60 Markus Granlund
#21 Loui Eriksson – #83 Jay Beagle – #64 Tyler Motte
#23 Alex Edler – #55 Alex Biega
#27 Ben Hutton – #51 Troy Stecher
#29 Ashton Sautner – #2 Luke Schenn
#25 Jacob Markstrom
#35 Thatcher Demko
Injured: Brandon Sutter, Jake Virtanen, Chris Tanev